#4: How a 14 Year Old Schoolgirl Brought the Beatles to America Two Months before the Ed Sullivan Show
I couldn’t resist writing this fun post about something that happened 51 years ago today.
Most people think that America discovered the Beatles on their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show (see it here). But did you ever wonder how they achieved that much noise on their first visit?
The story really goes back earlier — to a report filed by Alexander Kendrick, CBS News’ correspondent in London, where Beatlemania had already erupted. You can watch the original story here, called “Beatle-land”. He talked about juveniles who fainted when the tickets run out and used fancy descriptions: “Besides being merely the latest objects of adolescent adulation and culturally the modern manifestation of compulsive tribal singing and dancing, the Beatles are said by sociologists to have a deeper meaning. Some say they are the authentic voice of the proletariat…” Watch the 5-minute report, especially the interview with Ringo, Paul, George and John.
The story was scheduled to be aired on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News on November 22, 1963, but President Kennedy was murdered that morning, and America went into shock and depression.
It was only two and a half weeks later, on December 10, that Cronkite decided the nation was ready for anything lighter, so the Beatle-Land story was shown.
Enter Marsha Albert, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Silver Spring, Maryland. She called up her local disc jockey at WWDC radio, Carroll James, and asked him to play a Beatles song. He obtained a record (remember those?) from someone traveling from England.
And so he played “I Want to Hold Your Hand” exactly 51 years ago today, on Tuesday, December 17, 1963. And Marsha Albert got the honor of introducing it on the radio (hear it here).
And that’s how Beatlemania began in the U.S. The song hit Number 1 weeks before the triumph on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.
- Huffington-Post: Tweet The Beatles! How Walter Cronkite Sent The Beatles Viral… in 1963!
- CBS News: Three things that helped spark Beatlemania in 1964
- USA TODAY: Found: The teen who became Beatles’ first fan
- Internet Beatles Album: The Story Behind The Beatles on Ed Sullivan